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tv   [untitled]    April 13, 2012 5:30am-6:00am EDT

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but he also, midway through his letter, you can almost sort of imagine the wheels turning, he's saying this, he says, uh-oh, couldn't the rebels do the same thij to the monitor? has anything been done to the monitor's smokestacks to prevent bombs from being thrown in? there is a real risk of that happening. lincoln himself had been warned of this by none other than john warden, the wounded commander of the monitor. warden was worried this sort of thing could be done, that a commando could jump onto the monitor's deck, wedge tuhe turrent, and capture the vessel somehow doing that. in fact, it's such a valuable weapon we cannot just risk it willy-nil willy-nilly. then there are people who write in offering to destroy the
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merrimac themselves. they are sort of what i would say 14th century runners of blackwater. for enough money, i will blow up the merrimac. they're very specific about their pricing, too. it's usually about $500,000 to blow up the merrimac. in fact, devillaroy writes in about this also. if you don't like my submarine, how about i will blow up enemy ships and you will pay me whatever those ships were worth. another frenchman writes in saying -- and again, he's extremely specific, saying that, i'm in france right now, but if the government pays for my expenses, pays for the ship, pays for me to command the ship, i get to pick my own crew, and if i get killed in u.s. service, my aged mother gets a $200 pension for life. oh, and also, if i'm proven to be incompetent and you fire me,
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i get 160 acres of federal land. so it's win-win, and he also is rather miffed because he writes both the president and the american consul in paris a number of times and doesn't understand why he isn't getting a response, much less round-trip tickets. h. k. lawrence writes into the navy and says, again, i will destroy the merrimac, the jamestown, and the yorktown within 20 days of this date. $500,000 for the merrimac, $100,000 for the other vessels involved. wells is intrigued enough to say, well, state your plan. and he does so again. hamilton towle also has the same idea. he also says $500,000 for the merrimic. he sees wells personally and
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wells turns him down. so he he sasays, how about $10, now and $100,000 when i blow up the merrimac? he lessened his price. louis goldsboro writes to his friend saying, what has become of the $100,000 blowing up man? has his scheme collapsed or is the water too cold? secret inventions are also proposed. in fact, there are people who write in that say, my invention is so unbelievable, i can't tell you what it is. i can give you a rough outline, but i really can't tell you everything, although it can whip anything afloat. and they also insist that i will tell my idea to the president alone, or, if the president is
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not available, the secretary of war, maybe navy. in fact, louis winterbauer writes in and the navy says, thank you for suggesting your idea, however, we cannot judge it because you gave us no particulars. in fact, everyone wants to get in on the act. lincoln gets a letter from an unexpected source, a pastor from a baptist church in new hampshire, william sausen, who writes in saying, i have perfected an invention of the most marvelous destructive power that can immediately destroy the most powerful warships at a distance. you, sir, may smile at all this and suppose it is only the dream of an excited brain. but only a few days are needed to convince the world of its reality. the united states will be given the power to resist all the world's navy.
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and he also says, i am fully willing to do a test and then will sit back and wait for the offers to flood in. well, if shells and other machines couldn't destroy the merrimac, it is suggested, how about using one of nature's basic elements? fire. or fire and patrolling. this idea of turning the monitor into some sort of flame-throwing vesuvius, equipped the monitor with tanks of in flflammable, benzene, coil oil, naphtha, which is very close to gasoline. you spray the merrimac using fire hoses and then either the fire of her own guns will ignite it or you use a rocket to do so. and that, in a sense, this will
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take the enemy out with almost no effort. in fact, one of the most elaborate plans sent in was by robert chesebrough. you may have come into contact with him within the last few days. he is the inventor of vaseline. i was also thrilled to know that how to burn the merrimac was written by brooklyn fire company, so they knew how to start fires. he said what do you sput a $5,000-tank in the monitor, use a force pump, and you spray the merrimac with this fluid. in 15 minutes, her gun deck will be untenable, in 30, there will
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probably be an explosion. it can be readied in three days, costs about $5,000, and he says, i'm aware that the cry of inhumane warfare will be raised. but, he says, the object is to only induce surrender. as soon as the rebels surrender, then the monitor can switch to spring water and it will wash the flames off. and, again, you will achieve your ends. if fire couldn't be used, how about live steam? in fact, there are several people who suggest that if you want a dead ironclad, you inject live steam. and you basically do very similar. you have the hoses attached to the monitor's steam drum or a special extra boiler, and you spray live steam through the merrimac's gun ports. and if steam is not practical, let's just use plain water. again, that smokestack was an
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object of fascination that, again, you use a force pump, you direct these jets of water. i'm sort of imagining the monitor like one of those fire boats in new york harbor with water spraying out everywhere, only in this case it's either naptha or water. if we can get water to go down the merrimac's smokestacks, 10 gallons will basically blow out the furnace doors, scalding everyone within reach, and no doubt the confederate would surrender in a great hurry. but there was also, then, the fear that what was good for the rebel goose might also be applied to the union gander. and there were fears that this exact same tactic could be used against the monitor. people write in with all different strategems about how to go about destroying the merrimac. some offer basic ideas that navy
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officers, of course, had already thought of. some say, well, let's use a giant net, as if the merrimac is some sort of large guppy, that it can be scooped up with these tugs and you would grab the merrimac that way. also, to use, again, sort of a chain lasso that you fire this grappling hook over the merrimac and capture it that way. you have two individuals, edward post, to latch onto the merrimac so she couldn't get away and hammer her in submission that way. or there was the cradling option. again, you use this grappling hook and a chain, you shoot it over the merrimac, it latches
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ahold, and according to its author, jay miller, that you could then rock the merrimac back and forth until water starts pouring in and it surrenders or sinks. he's not shy about his idea because he says, let this rough suggestion be well studied. reminding gideon wells how simple a thing was david sling in taking on the goliath. c.l.pasquale has one of the crazier ideas which i call dump and sink in which what you do is you have a 23-wheel cannon on the back of this steamer -- again, look how small the merrimac is in comparison -- you ram the merrimac, dragging with it another cannon falling on the other side, and basically like a
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large dump truck you would sink the merrimac using, basically, just excess weight. but as i said, there were fears that the confederates could use basically these exact same tactics. you have a number of worried northerners writing in saying, can the monitor defend itself against a vessel that has superior steam power? most of the northern public did not realize the merrimac's engines were barely able to move it, much less this idea that the merrimac is going to shoot these grappling hooks over the monitor and drag it back to norfolk. and then the rebels would have both ironclads and then the union cause would be lost. in fact, there is an anonymous letter from norfolk that's sent to lincoln saying that this diabolical plan is under way and that, quote, take warning in time.
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in fact, there was some reality to this. subpoena -- supposedly there were attempts that the confederates would attempt to board the monitor, wedge the turrent, and then use tarps to cover the pilot house and other openings and pour in chloroform. that somehow the union crew would all be put to sleep and the confederates would capture the ship that way, you know, figuring that nothing else could possibly go wrong with this particular scheme. but, of course, this never happens. the monitor and the merrimac never officially engage again. in fact, it's only fitting that, really, the end of the merrimac comes partially at the i instigation of abraham lincoln. lincoln had received all these letters asking him, cajoling
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him, and lincoln himself comes down to hampton roads on may 6 to survey the military situation, and he and secretary solomon p. chase and stanton will actually cruise around hampton roads and he's found a spot where the union army can land to capture norfolk. once norfolk is gone, the confederate ship is untenable. lincoln orders this attempt to be made. in fact, lincoln actually gets to see the merrimac come down the river to investigate some shelling that the union maybe is doing, and there's conflicting reports. the union reports say that merrimac shows up, we withdrew trying to lure her further down so that vanderbilt and the other big rams could get a shot at her where the confederates say, well, the union saw the merrimac come and go fled. they all went to hide under the
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guns of fortress monroe. the union landing does take place, norfolk does fall, and on may 11 the confederates blow up the merrimac. in fact, solomon p. chase, who finds it sometimes reluctant to praise abraham lincoln writes to his daughter saying, if lincoln had not come down, the merrimac would probably still be as great a terror as previously. lincoln's presence and his forceful insistence that something be done actually garnered results. but the ghost of the merrimac comes back to haunt the union after the end of the war. again, we think merrimac is blown up, end of story. that's not really the end of the story, because one of the other things i've run across in my wandering through the national
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archives, the federal government has three contracts after the war with salvage firms to do something about the wreck of the merrimac, which is sort of blocking the elizabeth river's shipping channel. apparently two of the contracts fall through, for whatever reason, and the third contract, which is apparently executed and finished by may 18, 1871, the salvage outfit is not terribly happy. they basically don't make any money at all. they bring up about 30 tons of wrought iron which largely gets sold for souvenirs, but again, they weren't terribly happy that they thought it would be a much more lucrative operation than it turned out. what was left of the hull and everything was left, but most of the iron was brought up. well, the one portion of this paper that i regret not having to give to you is the confederate response. one thing i really wanted to see is if people in the confederacy are coming up with similar lunatic ideas of how to deal
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with the monitor. unfortunately, most of those records were destroyed when richmond fell and the confederates burned most of the archives, so unfortunately, i don't have those to give you. a partial answer, of course, can be divined by the structure of experimental ships like the hunley or the use of stationary torpedos. the confederates were extremely invent acti inventive at trying to find ways of equalizing naval combat with such a powerful enemy. in the words of gideon wells, the clash of ironclads 150 years ago in hampton roads was the most remarkable naval combat of modern times perhaps of any age. the challenge of the merrimac had been met and then repelled, and thus a new era was open in the history of maritime warfare. the world and naval combat have never been the same since. thank you.
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[ applause ] >> i'd be happy to take any questions if there are any. i believe there is a microphone set up if you wish. no questions? hopefully i covered everything so thoroughly, there can be no doubts in your mind. anyway, thank you very much. [ applause ] for the last few weeks while congress has been on spring recess, we brought you american history in primetime. we conclude on friday with the
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looks at lives and careers of four u.s. military leaders. you can see those events friday starting at 8:00 p.m. eastern here on cspan-3. >> april 15, 1912. nearly 1500 perish on the ship called unsinkable. >> once the lookout bells were sounded, the lookout cited, iceberg ahead, they rang the bells three times, ding, ding, ding, which is a warning that there is some object ahead. it doesn't mean dead ahead, it means ahead of the ship and it doesn't say what kind of object. with the lookout after he struck the bell, he called down to the officer on the bridge to tell them what it is that they saw. and when the phone was finally answered, the entire conversation was, what do you see? and the response was, iceberg
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right ahead. and the response from the officer was, thank you. >> samuel halpern on the truth and see myths of that night. part of american history tv this weekend on cspan-3. this is cspan-3 with politics throughout the week and people and events telling the
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